Written and Directed by Lisa Mikitarian.
Starring Darren Barzegar, Connie Lamothe, Nick Nerangis, Madeline Mikitarian, and Tony Villa.
Mother and son duo Evelyn and Lonnie Schumacher (Connie Lamothe and Darren Barzegar) have been on a wild spending spree. However, the money is not theirs; it is Evelyn’s husband and Lonnie’s father Herbert’s (Nick Nerangis). But it doesn’t matter, Herbert has a severe brain tumour and won’t be around for much longer. Or so they think. Then, just before the 4th of July, Herbert’s tumour miraculously disappears, leaving Evelyn and Lonnie in quite the predicament.
I’ll be honest, when I read the synopsis for Spent, I imagined a film far darker than the one I ended up watching. I envisioned a film akin to the works of Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith, full of darkly comedic musings on death and greed. What I got instead was a farce that tried a bit too hard to mimic the style of 40’s cinema. It also had one serious flaw: no interesting characters.
Reviewers often criticise films for having unlikeable heroes. I have never found this to be a problem. As long as the characters are interesting, what do I care whether I actually like them or not? I want to feel something towards them, sure, I just don’t care what that something is. The problem with the Schumachers is that none of them are remotely interesting. Everyone essentially comes across as a 5/10 person: neither bad enough to hate nor good enough to love. Their desires are also trite and uninteresting. Lonnie wants nothing more than a new car and the girl, and Evelyn wants nothing more than a new husband and pearl earrings. I know this movie is supposed to be throwback to the cinema of old, but sheesh, that doesn’t mean that clichéd motivations are a must.
As mentioned, the film attempts to mimic the style and atmosphere of 40’s cinema. This is very noticeable in the costuming, as well as the shot selection. Establishing shots look flat, and have that classical aura to them. Just about everything is filmed at eye level, and a good number of scenes are even in black and white. Although it is clear that director Lisa Mikitarian has done her research, her efforts feel hollow, and the style doesn’t really add anything to the film. Combine this with the overuse of stationary shots, which sap the energy out of the more exciting scenes, leaving them stilted and lifeless, and you have a film that is stylised but not at all stylish.
The performances, though not dreadful, are mediocre. There are a handful of hammed up moments, which occasionally rouse a laugh, but more often than not simply induce a small cringe. Some of the line delivery is choppy, and a few of the conversation scenes feel very much like table-reads, though I’m not entirely sure whether to blame the actors or the script itself for such shortcomings.
The film is not without its moments. Some of the physical comedy is pretty funny, and a handful of scenes are only one interesting character away from being genuinely tense. But these moments are few and far between. The premise itself is interesting, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired.
It seems to me that Spent is a film that will only really appeal to those moviegoers who are interested in seeing 1940’s aesthetics for 1940’s aesthetics’ sake. If that doesn’t sound like you, then I’d give this one a miss. It’s not offensively bad, but it’s not exactly interesting either.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★/ Movie: ★ ★
James Turner is a writer and musician based in Sheffield. You can follow him on Twitter @JTAuthor